Friday, July 25, 2008

Making lemonade with a second place burger

I took second place in Marx Foods' Burger Recipe Contest this week. There were 119 recipes, so I'm pretty proud of beating 98.3 percent of my competition. Can't say I'm not disappointed, though. The winner was awarded 10 pounds of super high quality/trendy burger meat. I'm not, however, very adventurous with my meat choices. Should I have won, I would have picked a 10 pound box of Kobe beef burgers. I could have picked kanagroo or llama, too, among other things. Check out their selection, it's really wild.

I really, really wanted those burgers. I can even taste them if I think about it hard enough. Can you believe I was a vegetarian for seven years? Once Morgan started lacing my food with bacon it all went downhill.

My Stuffed Caprese Sirloin Burgers with Roasted Garlic Aioli were taken down by Hoisin Ginger Burgers with Lime Pickled Onions. Lime pickled onions?? Really?? OK, I guess they sound kind of good. Pair something with a lime and I'll eat it, but I'll never be down with gruyere cheese.

Here's my non-award winning recipe:

Stuffed Caprese Sirloin Burgers with Roasted Garlic Aioli

Burgers (makes six)

3 pounds ground sirloin (80:20 meat-to-fat ratio)
2 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
2 tsp. each, chopped fresh oregano and basil (buy a full bunch of basil and reserve at least 12 remaining full leaves to top the burgers -- two for each burger)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup finely diced white onion
3 ounces thinly sliced fresh mozzarella
2 medium-sized Campari tomatoes, sliced
Olive oil, for brushing


6 Focaccia burger buns

Roasted Garlic Aioli

1 large head garlic
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 pasteurized egg yolks
1 raw clove garlic, minced
Juice of 1 small lemon
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground cayenne pepper
1-1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil


Making the burgers:

Combine all burger ingredients except cheese and tomato slices in large bowl.
Mix thoroughly, then shape into 6 thin patties.
Put 1/2 ounce mozzarella on three patties.
Top with remaining patties and press edges to tightly seal.
If a bit misshapen, gently flatten until patties are about 4 1/2 inches in diameter.
Refrigerate, covered, until cold, about one hour.

Making the aioli:

To roast the garlic, preheat the oven to 300 F.
Cut a thin slice off the very top of the head to expose the cloves.
Set the garlic head in a shallow baking dish and pour the oil slowly over and into the head.
Season with the salt and pepper.
Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 1-3/4 hours, until the garlic is very soft and tender.
Don’t rush; older garlic may take longer.
Drain and reserve the oil, and set the garlic aside.
After the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the pulp into a food processor or blender and add the egg yolks, minced raw garlic clove, lemon juice, water, salt, and cayenne pepper.
Puree until smooth. With the motor running, add the reserved roasting oil and the additional 1-1/2 cups oil in a slow, steady stream and continue processing until emulsified. Refrigerate until needed.

Grilling the burgers:

Preheat a gas grill to medium-high or prepare a charcoal grill. Brush burgers with olive oil and grill to desired doneness, flipping only once, about 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. To test for doneness, insert an instant-read meat thermometer through the side of a burger into the center. The internal temperature for medium rare is 145 F; 160 F for medium and 170 F for well done.

Serve burgers on buns with aioli, tomato slices and reserved basil leaves.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mac & Cheese with the Lounsberrys

We spent last Friday night with the Lounsberry family eating Beecher’s “World’s Best Mac & Cheese” and fawning over Jake (he is terribly cute). There was also a fair amount of time spent reminding George he is still loved with lots of petting and picture-taking. I can tell he really likes Jake and they’re going to be best friends. And because George is so extremely large, I think Brian and Christie have already managed to avoid the common fifth birthday ask of a pony.

Macaroni and cheese is one of my three favorite foods. It ties with tiramisu and good sandwiches. This particular batch came straight from the Pasta & Co. freezer (sibling company to Beecher's Handmade Cheese in the Pike Place Market), but I have made it at home in the past. I also really like the NY Times version — both recipes are posted below. Let me know if you make them and what you think!

World’s Best Mac & Cheese
Serves four as a side dish

6 ounces penne pasta
2 cups Beecher's Flagship Sauce (recipe follows)
1 ounce cheddar, grated (1/4 cup)
1 ounce Gruyere cheese, grated (1/4 cup)
¼ to ½ teaspoon chipotle chile powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Oil or butter an eight-inch baking dish.

Cook the penne two minutes less than package directions. (It will finish cooking in the oven.) Rinse pasta in cold water and set aside.

Combine cooked pasta and Flagship sauce in a medium bowl and mix carefully but thoroughly. Scrape the pasta into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the cheeses and then the chile powder. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Let sit for five minutes before serving.

Note: If you double the recipe to make a main dish, bake in a 9x13-inch pan for 30 minutes.

Beecher’s Flagship Cheese Sauce
Makes about 4 cups

¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
14 ounces semi-hard cheese, such as Beecher's Flagship, grated (about 3 ½ cups)
2 ounces grated semisoft cheese, such as Beecher's Just Jack
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ to ½ teaspoon chipotle chile powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat and whisk in the flour. Continue whisking and cooking for 2 minutes. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Add the cheese, salt, chile powder and garlic powder. Stir until the cheese is melted and all ingredients are incorporated, about 3 minutes. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to three days.

Note: A single batch of sauce makes enough for a double recipe of macaroni and cheese.


New York Times Macaroni and Cheese
Accompanying article: Macaroni and Lots of Cheese
(Warning: This is the "creamy" recipe. Do not attempt the “crusty” recipe. It’s sick. If you choose to not heed this advice, don't call me when you break a tooth.)

Serves six as a side dish

2 tablespoons butter
1 cup cottage cheese (not low fat)
2 cups milk (not skim)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Pinch cayenne
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound sharp or extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated
½ pound elbow pasta, uncooked

Heat oven to 375 degrees and position an oven rack in upper third of oven. Use one tablespoon butter to butter a nine-inch round or square baking pan.

In a blender, puree cottage cheese, milk, mustard, cayenne, nutmeg and salt and pepper together. Reserve ¼ cup grated cheese for topping. In a large bowl, combine remaining grated cheese, milk mixture and uncooked pasta. Pour into prepared pan, cover tightly with foil and bake 30 minutes.

Uncover pan, stir gently, sprinkle with reserved cheese and dot with remaining tablespoon butter. Bake, uncovered, 30 minutes more, until browned. Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Dream Dinners, the Suburban Solution

I’ve been going to Dream Dinners (DD) once a month since May. Next week will by my third trip. DD is a meal-prep business, usually based in a strip mall (you know you're a suburbanite when ... ) where you can go and assemble meals, store them in freezer bags and take them home to enjoy all month long.

I’ve been impressed with the quality of meats and produce; and level of sanitation (very important in my book). Everything is very fresh, the kitchens are hygienic and sometimes they feed you dessert and give you a chair massage. Indeed, this is hard work!

The “meals” usually consist of just the main course, i.e., meat and a fancy sauce or marinade, but sometimes a side dish is included, too. When the dish is straight-up meat, like tonight’s savory grilled porkchops, I usually steam or sautee some veggies and make either rice or potatoes to go alongside.
Initially, I was incredibly skeptical of the concept. We tried some killer enchiladas at a dinner party, though, and I was sold. I still love to cook, but on week nights when we’re pressed for time and have other activities, these meals are a lifesaver. And grilled citrus salmon is so much healthier than a corndog or bowl of Lucky Charms (sadly these things can be found in our house and are the usual busy-night substitutes).

DD is economical, too. My bill for next week (which I prepaid online) came to $135 for 12, three-serving meals. Sure, I could knock-out 36 servings of boneless skinless chicken breasts in a simple marinade for that cost, but I would rather see a medley of meats and produce grace our table. Yummy in my tummy.

Welcome Waffles

I created Team O as a place for Morgan and I to chronicle our day-to-day lives and the adventures that occasionally arise. I despise the kitschiness that is scrapbooking, but can appreciate the memoir aspect and think this works just as well.

One thing that seems to preoccupy us quite a bit is food. We like to eat and cook. Well, I like to eat and cook; Morgan likes to eat. Look for recipes and feel free to stop by and share your own, too!

This weekend I made blueberry waffles. Nothing too special, just the recipe from the Bisquick box with an oversized cup of berries tossed into the mix. So simple and soooo good.

The other cool thing about homemade waffles is how well they freeze and reheat. They triumph over Eggo waffles in taste and in cost. Just let them cool, place them in individual sandwich bags (to prevent them from sticking together) and then in a gallon-size Ziploc freezer bag. Pop them in the toaster when you want to eat them. Don’t thaw first; just like an Eggo.

Basic Bisquick Waffles
2 cups Original Bisquick mix
1 1/3 cups milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg

Stir ingredients until blended.

Pour onto center of hot greased waffle iron; close lid.

Bake about five minutes or until steaming stops.

Carefully remove waffles.


Makes about 12 (four-inch) waffles.